Those infamous cans of brightly colored Silly String, banned at Lodi parades for more than a decade, could soon enjoy a resurgence.
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce asked that the ordinance against using Silly String in Lodi be brought before the council on a future agenda.
“There are some rules and laws that no one enforces, and we need to look at those, including the one banning Silly String,” she said.
Mounce was inspired by Noah Watts, a student at Lodi Middle School, who asked her recently why the law was still on the books if it’s no longer relevant.
Nobody got the law quite right, though, says city attorney Steve Schwabauer.
“The world apparently thinks we do ban Silly String,” said Schwabauer. “That’s not the case.”
The city bans spraying Silly String into the eyes of people driving carts — specifically, spectators may not “drop, roll, throw, toss, squirt or propel any gaseous, liquid, semi-solid or solid substance or object toward or among the participants, vehicles or animals in the special event.” Any other use is perfectly legal.
The rule was proposed in 1999 by former Lodi Mayor Jerald Kirsten, a supporter of the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Stockton. The Shriners are known for wearing fez hats while driving small red cars during parades, and used to continue this tradition at the annual Grape Festival Parade.
Children with Silly String would spray the stuff at the Shriners as they drove by. The string got in their eyes and made cleaning their uniforms difficult. So the city council at the time passed the law as a logical measure.
But through word of mouth, the story was misheard as a complete ban on Silly String in Lodi.
The measure caught the eye of national late night TV in one of the more famous incarnations of the story. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” sent correspondent Steve Carrell to Lodi to get the scoop.
In a four-minute clip, Carrell talked to citizens, visited former city manager Randall Hays, and even stopped by Arthur’s Party World, the former party supply store. The short inspired plenty of jokes and entries on Weird Law websites around the internet.
The law even attracted protesters in 2011. Three Lodi High School seniors made up a mock protest with signs outside City Hall, asking to legalize Silly String.
No one has ever been cited for violating the rule.
But the parade was canceled in 2002, and the Shriners no longer jet along Pine Street.
Mounce said it’s time to take another look at the rule. City staff will include it in a future agenda.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.